8/15/08 - We wake late and spend the remainder of a rainy morning over coffee and reflections on our individual summers of 1968. I had just graduated from Penn State and had entertained an offer to work for the CIA but couldn't quite get comfortable to the idea of spending a life learning to lie effectively. Instead I had accepted a scholarship to Villanova Law School because at 25 I still hadn't figured out what I wanted to be and had decided to put off the decision for 3 more years while I added to credentials that still were not considered to be equal to getting me into the State Department's Foreign Service. I seemed to be a well disciplined student but I didn't know what else to be.
Finally, mustering our post flight energies, we drove up the mountainside to Villars and ate lunch in a tea room overlooking the foggy valley and I left Linda and Kathie to the leisure of a longer lunch while venturing out to take some pictures of the rainy village.
Next we took an introductory ride through Villars, La Barboleuse, Gryon and Le Covets before returning to La Nichee for naps to strengthen us for a ride down the mountain to Aigle. In Aigle we walked around for some more rainy day pictures, lightly considered the purchase of some horse meat, and watched the Bejing Olympics in a comfortable pub while waiting for Ros's train to arrive from Geneva. After meeting the excellent Ros we returned to La Nichee where I grilled her for her L'Abri experiences and we shared wine, cheese, and much laughter..
8/16/08 - After a picture perfect morning at La Nichee, we start toward Max's house near Bern with a drive through Villars and travel upward stopping at the pass of Col de la Croix (5840 ft.) before continuing on toward Les Diablerets to a stop
where Kathie, Ros and Linda tarry over tea and light pastries while I walk my way down through the valley toward Gstaad in the German speaking Canton of Bern.
After we parked the car in Gstaad, the fairer gender went to a shopping venue while I wandered through the little town at the border of Canton Vaud and the Bernese Oberland. Gstaad is a friendly car-free village. A rather charming, attractively located place full of restored weathered-wood chalets between four gently sloping valleys..
I watched a Bollywood film crew taking a series of quick shots before rejoining my distaff companions for a great Holstein Schnitzel lunch and the remainder of the drive to the outskirts of Bern for an afternoon visit with another of the L'Abri alumni and a generous raclette dinner.
Over dinner I am intrigued by Ros's description of a former L'Abri colleague who had met Che Guevara and mingled with the Sartre circle in Paris as "the embodiment of existential angst." I am always jealous of people who have been in the company of such amazing characters but happy with at least a second hand acquaintance. I also hear many other anecdotes from the shared L'Abri years and become convinced that I am nearing some sort of axis mundi. Wikipedia decribes the axis mundi (also cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar and center of the world)as a ubiquitous symbol that crosses human cultures. The image expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms. Communication from lower realms may ascend to higher ones and blessings from higher realms may descend to lower ones and be disseminated to all. The spot functions as the omphalos (navel), the world's point of beginning.
8/17/08 - I woke fairly early to another beautiful morning and left my sleepy companions to venture forth for some serious walking to acquaint my legs with the local inclines after their long vacation in the Maryland flatlands. Starting uphill from Huemoz, I first reached Chesieres and then walked through Villars, La Barboleuse, and Gryon before starting the long steep descent to Bex.
As I walked along the road to Bex, I was one valley closer to the Dents de Morcles and this angle on Grand and Petit Muveran made the mountains seem closer together than from our window in Huemoz. After reaching Bex I had lunch in a Thai restaurant near the station and then took a quick walk through the village while waiting for the cog railway train that would take me back up the mountain to Villars. I met four young girls who wanted to practice their English with me and continued to fall in love with this beautiful town nesting in the valley looking up to the Diablerets massif. In the middle of the night I talked to Linda about bringing my ashes to Bex for burial because if my soul is strong enough to continue exploring after my earthly demise, this would be the most wonderful resting place that I could imagine. Trees, mountains, vineyards, clean air and water, and a railway station that would give me prompt access to walks in the mountains or to all of the great places in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa that I didn't get to on the first go round.
After riding the cog railway back to Villars I was directed to a new path for reaching Huemoz on foot and I arrived to hear the ravings of my travel mates over the afternoon that they had spent in nearby Lavey at the Bains de Lavey thermal spa. They portray the spa as a sort of oasis of well-being, with its Jacuzzis, massage pools, swan-neck jets, mushroom fountains, waterfalls, a spiraling rapids course and bubbling water beds. I struggle to maintain my indifference to such pleasures of the flesh but over a wonderful plate of salmon at La Terrace I am weakened enough by the force of their arguments to agree to accompany them on a future return visit.
8/18/08 - We drive through Aigle to Montreux from where the train is to take Ros back to the Geneva Airport for her flight to London at the end of the day. Our first stop is at the Chateau de Chillon built on a steep rock outcropping on the southern end of the lake. The castle consists of 25 independent buildings that were gradually connected and now form a single whole. The oldest parts of the castle have not been definitively dated, but the first written record of the castle is in 1160.From the mid 12th century, the castle was home to the Counts of Savoy, and it was greatly expanded in the 13th century by Pietro II. The castle was never taken in a siege, but did change hands through treaties.
At the conclusion of our Chateau de Chillon walkabout, we reconnected with Ros and drove counter clockwise around the lake to Terriitet where I boarded the the Chemin de fer funiculaire Territet - Glion, a funicular which runs from Territet to Glion, connecting at its upper terminus with what was the lower terminus of the Chemin de fer Glion-Rochers-de-Naye mountain railway, which opened in 1892. The funicular was opened in 1883 and built with two separate and adjacent tracks which opened out to allow passing at the halfway point. The views from Glion of Montreux and the Aigle area were spectacular as I walked back down the mountain to Territet. There I met Kathie and Linda after they had finished a going away lunch with Ros at an Indian restaurant on the lakeside. We then made a stop at the Migros before returning to La Nichee for a sunset dinner of spinach ravioli.with an Aigle pinot noir.
8/22/08 - After days in Zermatt,.driving around Lake Geneva, and gazing at the wonderful Jungfrau in the Bernese Oberland, I was ready again for some serious hiking in Vaud so I got a Villars-Gryon DayPass at the tourist information office and caught the 9:30 AM bus over the Col de la Croix to Les Diablerets where I hurried to the cable car for a ride up to Isenau at 5782 ft.and climbed further to the peak of La Palette at 7123 ft. From there I was able to take some unspectacular pictures of the Oldenthorn at 10,246 ft. and the Scex Rouge at 10,528 ft. before beginning a two hour walk down to Vers-l'Eglise
I check to see what time the next train is leaving Vers-l'Eglise to return to Les Diablerets and then spend a half hour drinking a beer and trying to figure out how to capture some iconic images of the town. The name means near the church so I assume that is the Chapel of St Théodule near the bar where I am drinking beer but I remain unsure. I also take a quick photo of Le Chamossaire from this side of the valley because I am hoping to climb it from Roc d'Orsay when I have the opportunity.
When my train arrives I return to Les Diablerets in time to catch the 3:03 PM bus back to Villars where I use up all that is left of my legs walking on a new trail down the ravine to Huemoz. I am reminded of my pledge to join the ladies for a trip to the Bains de Lavey thermal spa and while I will now be embarrassed to face the derision of my manly men friends, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience particularly the races from the steam room to the polar room for trudging around on the ice covered floor and a quick dip in the freezing water to make me suffer for the pleasure that I had been having.
8/23/08 - We drive to Montreux where we spot a statue of a bulldog in a store window and are immediately stricken with guilt over poor Diesel who is missing all these great days in Switzerland during his incarceration under the evil dominion of the Kevertin Pet Resort. To assuage our guilt we purchase an expensive dog collar made of soft German elk skin in the hope that we can buy back his favor upon our return. In a liesurely pursuit of a lunching opportunity we walk down toward the shore of the lake and I try to find some opportunities for pictures on quite a rainy day. I look inside a bandshell with Picasso-like murals, and then find an enclosed market where food is being served and there are some opportunities of observing native behaviors including an unused mechanical bull with surrounding pillows ina USA patriotic color scheme. During this look-around I have lost Linda and Kathie who have purchased umbrellas and escaped from the store without me seeing them. I believe them to be heading along the shore to the Indian restaurant where they had lunched with Ros before her departure. I race more or less madly along the lakeside until I reach the Chateau de Chillon and know that I have passed the restaurant somewhere in between. In again not finding the restaurant upon my return I decide to take a simple repast in a lakeside restaurant and take a surreptitious picture of a bling laden pre-pubescent at the table next to me. After lunch I walked to the edge of the lake to photograph the Freddy Mercury statue. Freddie Mercury and the band Queen came to Montreux because of the famous recording facilities available at Mountain Studios. David Richards was the sound engineer at the studio and Queen were so impressed with the result of the recordings that they simply bought the studio and hired David Richards as their producer and sound engineer. Queen went on to record some of their biggest hits at the studio. Mercury died at his home in London shortly after his last visit to Montreux.
I walk to the location where I am scheduled to meet the lost people, but I am early so I wander toward the huge Montreux Palace with its statues honoring alumni of the Montreux Jazz Festival. At the appropriate hour I return to the meeting place and find my lost companions.
8/24/08 - It's another perfect morning so I take a picture of the now blooming roses in front of the house before Kathie drives me to Villars to get another Villars-Gryon DayPass. Next I catch a cable car to the top of Roc d'Orsay at 6,483 ft. where I am alone but for the sheep and cows.
From Roc d'Orsay I have a long and somewhat difficult climb to Le Chamossaire at 6,929 ft. but it is well worth the effort for the views of Villar and the Mont Blanc Glacier on one side and the towns clustered in the Les Diablerets valley on the other side.
I'm reluctant to give up this hard won altitude but I am hoping to get down to Bretaye in the valley below and meet up with Linda and Kathie for the walk back toVillars. I am able to make out the figures of people as I get closer and closer to Lac de Bretaye but upon reaching the train station I have not yet found my companions. I walk to the next village of Col de Soud but my encounter luck fails me again as they are inside the station having lunch as I pass by.